Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Systems view of a project and project management

What does it mean to take a systems view of a project? How does taking a systems view of a project apply to project management?

To view a project with a systems perspective is to see the whole internal and external operational landscape in which the project will be functioning. An example of a system is the cardiovascular process of the human body. To only see the heart and arteries without considering the interdependent support mechanisms that the heart system needs to function fails to consider the implications that any changes to the heart system will also cause variations, potentially fatal, in the interdependent systems of the body that rely on the heart. The reverse is also true.

Similarly, to develop and implement a project without considering the holistic view of the organization, the systems approach, will likely fail to bring the proposed benefits to the organization because the complete, possibly unintended impact of the project has not been fully considered on the entire system. Also, the project may actually hinder the organizational goals and cause real losses. For example, to develop a advertising project for a single product without considering the impact the campaign may have on other product lines within the company, whether or not the price is in conformity with the market position, cannibalization of exiting products, image of the company, and other similar issues must be addressed during the planning and design phase of the project.

Often, projects are designed myopically due to organizational arrangement and culture within a company, such as business units, departments, competitive aspects, and/or geographic regions. Great care must be taken to include the overall goals and perspectives of the organization to ensure the project displays goal congruence and the end result adds value to the whole organization.

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